Consulting engineers critical for resilient infrastructure

Consulting engineers are necessary to ensure resilient infrastructure and investment viability and should be involved from the pre-investment phase.

The convergence of engineering and advisory services provides various benefits for project stakeholders. In addition to technical engineering advice, consulting engineers in advisory roles can advise on topics encompassing economic viability and resilience, explains consulting engineers firm Zutari Chief Clients Officer Webb Meko.

Engineers’ providing investment and technical advice – ranging from cost insights for prefeasibility studies, the effects of environmental factors, return on investment, and appropriate sizing of infrastructure – can ensure that investors and infrastructure owners maximise the project viability.

They can also determine the capital required and consider the total cost of ownership in terms of the operation and maintenance. This enables investors to plan for cash injections and thus establish a sustainable rate of investment for the entire project.

Meko says this is particularly relevant, as the role of consulting engineers is often downplayed.

However, downplaying the importance of design and engineering aspects in infrastructure results in rapidly deteriorating non-resilient infrastructure.

Meko says decision-makers must consider the importance of scientific research and design before starting infrastructure construction.

He also stresses the importance of ensuring resilient infrastructure during the planning and design phases: “If that is done properly, decision-makers can be confident that they are building resilient infrastructure that serves the intended purpose and has an optimum useful lifecycle.”

Decision-makers are often not equipped with the knowledge required to build resilient infrastructure. Still, consulting engineers can evaluate and factor in key components – including the infrastructure’s intended use and any potential fatal flaws in the design – into the infrastructure design.

He adds that decision-makers tend to rush into construction and, in some instances, implement decisions that are not carefully considered in terms of the engineering aspects.

This is more prevalent in the public than in the private sector, as the former still refrains from following a scientific approach at times, resulting in infrastructure that is not fit for purpose and is costly to maintain and operate.

Decision-makers and governments need to appreciate the importance of engineering and its impact on the economy and infrastructure, Meko adds.

“We can collectively succeed if we give this practice the necessary importance that it really deserves within our economy and everyday life,” he says.

Projects

Zutari demonstrates the importance of consulting engineers through the impact of its projects.

The company completed several projects recently, including the Zandvliet wastewater treatment works upgrade in Cape Town and the 15-year Western Cape Integrated Water Resources and Drought Management Plan.

Zandvliet addressed the water challenges in the impacted communities. The project treats effluent from the southern parts of the Kuils River, as well as the communities of Delft, Blackheath, Blackheath Industria, Blue Downs, Eerste River, De Wijnlanden, Thembokwezi, Mxolisi Phetani and Khayelitsha.  

The existing plant was overloaded, with equipment and pipelines failing. Therefore, urgent rehabilitation was required to meet the increasing needs of the region, particularly in densely populated and fast-growing areas.

The project aimed to build capacity to enable the City of Cape Town (CoCT) to offer proper wastewater management and treatment to this region.

As part of the 15-year Western Cape Integrated Water Resources and Drought Management Plan, Zutari devised schemes to ensure that Day Zero was avoided, says Meko.

Zutari was part of a group of engineers and technocrats that provided solutions for the Western Cape municipality. The municipality required technical planning capacity across all fields of government, achieved through the Integrated Water Resources and Drought Management Plan.

Through this appointment, Zutari helped the CoCT plan for a resilient future through an in-depth water study and to develop a set of decision support tools for improved urban water planning, operations and bulk water management.

Meko concludes that the Western Cape government has implemented the plan, which will go a long way towards ensuring that water is well managed within the province.

At Zutari, we believe in co-creating an engineered impact enable environments, communities and economies to thrive.

Zutari is an infrastructure advisory, design, and engineering consultancy. In the past 90 years, we’ve formed a deep-rooted relationship with Africa, the Middle East, and its people. Staying in business for almost a century is a testament to our agility and resilience.

Our broad collective of in-house, industry-recognised engineering consultants and trusted advisors provide seamless and integrated delivery of infrastructure projects. These solutionists combine their technical mastery, creative intelligence, and digital smarts to reframe traditional engineering for a new world.

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Zutari, in partnership with CESA, held the 2024 Job Shadow Day over two days (3 and 4 July 2024). Our Tshwane and Cape Town offices hosted over 80 Grade 11 and 12 learners with an interest in engineering sciences. The programme fuelled their excitement and curiosity about how Zutari works. It further gave them a front-row seat into a day in the life of engineers entails.
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